Meir Jolovitz
Meir JolovitzCourtesy

For a few years now, there has been a sense of optimism that much of the Arab world was becoming more moderate, and that certain ‘pivotal’ nations, most notably Saudi Arabia, had become more conciliatory about the prospects for peace with Israel, a nation whose right to exist it had not yet conceded.

The optimists, it seemed, had more reason to be optimistic.

And yet others – those belonging to the “if it seems too good to be true, it just might be” school of thought – those geo-political experts who were well-schooled in the ways of the Arab/Muslim world – well, they thought otherwise. Yes, it was true: the Israelis and the Saudis had began to communicate diplomatically, and even meet publicly – overtly – in the same way that we had always known that they had previously met covertly. But that was readily understandable. After all, Jew and Arab alike subscribed to that age-old dictum that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

If it wasn’t Sun Tzu or Machiavelli who advanced that brilliant piece of strategic thinking, it certainly should have been. Because it has far-reaching implications – and consequences – in both politics and international relations.

That common enemy – the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So, with that obvious truism, please exercise caution with any false reading of reality.

These are the facts:

The Sunni nations of the Arab world are concerned – as they should be – about the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the threat that it poses to the entire Middle East. After all, they are well-schooled in knowing the Muslim mind.

So the Gulf Arab states turn to the two countries that could possibly stop Iran: the United States, and Israel. Logically. Pragmatically. After all. “The enemy of my enemy … is my friend.”

In an op-ed written five years ago, I argued that this new attitude in policy by those falsely labeled as “moderate Arab states” is completely self-serving – yes, that Iranian elephant in the room – which is understandable, but truth be told, it also has a shelf-life. It ends when the Iranian threat either ends, or is neutralized.

We will not dissect here that the fact that not one of these moderate Arab states has ever not voted against Israel with any of the hundreds of United Nations General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel for – well, anything. Everything. Such is their ‘moderation’. That, however, is fodder for another op-ed.

It does, of course, explain the ‘rapprochement’ with the West, and even the thawing of tensions with Israel, which for some ended with the Abraham Accords. Which, it seems, we must constantly remind people – including Israel’s prime minister – was not a peace treaty. A normalization of relations is not an acceptable euphemism for peace agreement. Ask Sun Tzu, or Machiavelli.

As long as Iran is determined to control not only the Persian Gulf, but the entire Middle East, one can expect this type of cooperation from the surrounding Arab states. After all, none of the kings or despots of the wealthy Arab oil states want to be dethroned.

But, if Iran was indeed neutralized and ceased to be that threat, then it don’t take a genius to understand that the Saudi flirtation for better relations with Israel (to borrow a phrase once used by Pierre Van Paassen) “would evaporate like snow in a summer day’s sun”.

Let’s stop pretending. In May 2017, the Muslim leaders who politely tolerated President Trump’s remarks during his visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, represented a bloc of nations where there are no free elections, no freedom of expression, where the violation of basic human and women’s rights is the rule rather than the exception, where corruption is an endemic element of culture, and where ‘non-Muslim’ religious life is less often tolerated than it is persecuted.

Remember too that then-President Trump addressed an audience which was a collection of despots and terrorists, telling them that they needed to partner with the West in fighting terrorism. Let’s all pause to smirk, or laugh. Sure! Let’s get Charles Manson to join the neighborhood crime watch, I jested then, in some op-ed.

A favorite quote, attributed to Eric Hoffer: “we lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.”

Fast forward. Today. Recently, we saw Saudi Arabia join forces – theoretically – and to be sure, temporarily – in a move that, once again, took Western intelligence by surprise. An agreement of sorts, détente, not yet fully understood, between the Saudis and their harshest adversary – Iran.

Everyone seemed shocked. Including the so-called experts. They should not have been. After all, where human rights might be absent, pragmatism still prevails.

There are twin practical reasons for this fragile tango of two despotic authoritarian Muslim nations – each of which lays claim to the leadership of the Islamic world – and its destiny.

First, there is Iran. To paraphrase Al Gore about some other matter: “that zebra has not changed its spots”. The Islamic Republic of Iran has taken notice that Israel is rightly concerned about that nation’s advanced development of a nuclear military capability. Israel, in turn, whether with the intent to plan a strike or simply deter, has been practicing aerial and naval military maneuvers. Some, with the United States.

But given the obvious spineless attitude of the Biden foreign policy team toward Iran – a policy exposing a DNA whose main characteristic is appeasement – one might conclude that the exercises were exactly that – “well scripted exercises”. The Iranians must be confused. Certainly, the ayatollahs and their Islamic Revolutionary Guard must factor and confront an Israel that cannot long ignore the pronouncements by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) that the Iranian threat is ever more dangerous and real.

Iran, it seems, couldn’t take chances. So it gestured.

The second reason is this: The Saudis also recognize the faint-hearted, weak-kneed attitude of American foreign policy – and understand, correctly, that the United States could not be counted on in any future military engagement with its Muslim rival across the Gulf. So – it too, decided to gamble – by beginning to establish ties with Iran – however confusing or bogus that enterprise will prove to be.

And, once again – America and the foreign policy decision-makers with an anorexic appetite for conflict (Theodore Roosevelt would have labeled them as those “with the backbone of a chocolate éclair”), those who shepherd its destiny, they are to blame for much that goes wrong in the Middle East.

Let’s connect these dots.

Those of you who had expressed such optimism about a newly discovered Muslim attitude based on “moderation” – take heed. There is no “New Middle East” the way that Shimon Peres envisioned in 1993. A Middle East of “pragmatism over ideology” – a “common market” that renders passe any ideological strife.

No – ideology is not dead in the Middle East. Certainly less for the Arabs than the Jews who were once proud Zionists and who are, in greater numbers, the real threat to Israel. Yes, the Saudis have noticed that as well, and have reassessed the expectation that Israel would protect the Gulf from the mullahs. The Jewish State has its own problems, and a sizeable and growing minority in Israel thinks it is Jerusalem and not Teheran. A tragic mistake.

What is new is the creative way that the Muslim world has learned to exploit the Western world – as needed – for its own personal, and political, and pragmatic, benefit. While the Israelis have proven again, the myth of Jewish intelligence.

A necessary footnote: Remember those same foreign policy analysts, who, with the signing of the Abraham Accords – were so optimistic that the Palestinian Arab issue was no longer an issue – nor an obstacle to a peaceful Middle East? That moderation had replaced rejectionism and terror?

Sorry!! The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, coupled with a exponential expansion of Arab terror in the streets of Israel, suggest otherwise. As does every anti-Israel vote in the UN.

So… put aside your premature celebrations. There is no peace to be found. Not unless Islam ceases to be… Islam.


Allow me this fantasy for a moment: The Saudis, in collusion with the Israelis – recognizing that the Iranians are the common enemy that can never be trusted – have played this game brilliantly – and in a deceptive tactical gambit that will allow them to better target Iran, have engineered a fraudulent Saudi-Iranian reconciliation. An ingenious political and military ploy that is the stuff of movies. A Trojan horse.

But – sadly, we know that isn’t the case – because it is always the cunning Iranians who are one step ahead.

As for the Western world being the fools – well, that is indeed more fact than fiction.

Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.